Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 17-23

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Maria Volonte Tango Passions Band Dance Party @ Coda.
This was a really nice event. Maria and the Tango Passions Band have a very jazzy, modern sensibility to it, with their versions of Piazzolla and Gardel, among others, as well as original compositions. Maria is fluent in English, has a lovely stage presence, and is excellent with audience engagement. The 5-person band is comprised of a pianist, bassist, accordionist, drums, and harmonica player. The songs were not limited to Tango or Argentina. There was also a song in English (“Broken Dreams”), a Chacarera, and a song from Peru and one from Columbia, among the many diverse offerings. Their song dedicated to the San Francisco Bay Area tango community (called “SF Tango”) brought down the house. It was a highly entertaining night, with dance performance by Gustavo and Jesica Hornos. Maria and the band truly want dancers to dance while they perform; they do not just want to be admired and listened to. The dancers energize and inspire them as musicians, and they would like to see us all be free to be creative and musical as their music inspires us. The dance floor was weird in that it was extremely textured concrete, so it gave the sensation of dancing on sandpaper. One happy result of this was that it slowed everyone down, which made us all look a whole lot better as dancers, and made the floor craft on the small dance floor quite good. Parking near Coda was super easy on this Sunday night, and it’s right off of 101. Maria and the Tango Passions Band have one more gig in the Bay Area on October 1, @ 12:30 p.m. at Yerba Buena Gardens (745 Mission between 3rd & 4th) and it’s FREE. Then they go on tour to Argentina. They will be back in the Bay Area at the end of December.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Orange Practica at the Beat with lesson by Shorey Myers assisted by Soheil
with exercises on Posture, Balance, Pivoting, and Disassociation and a Twisty Sacada Sequence.

We began with exercises to help us improve our posture and how we hold ourselves while walking and in turning.

First Exercise:
The class was broken up into two lines, back to back in the middle of the room, each line facing the mirrors on the two sides of the room. We were to walk forward to the mirror and walk backwards away from the mirror. For our posture when walking, we were to be tall and vertical and stretch through the back of the neck. We were to stretch our legs and take big steps. We were also to walk with engagement and practice the dancing, focusing on pushing from the opposite leg to step. When walking back, we were to push from the front leg, and have straight extension in our back leg, keeping our head steady and even. When walking forward, we were to push from our back leg to propel ourselves forward, and not be afraid to step big. When stepping backward, the weight is into the ball of the foot and rolls through to transfer to the heel. When stepping forward, the weight goes into the heel and then gets transferred to the ball.

Second Exercise:
This was an exercise on disassociation. In pairs of similar height dancers, we were to walk with the Leader pushing down with his hands on the Follower’s hips while the Follower tries to keep her ribs up as high as possible and really raise the back of her head, keeping her neck straight. Then the Leader would change his hands to raise her up by her lower ribs while she would walk trying to keep as grounded and weighted/heavy in her hips as much as possible as if they were filled with sand and water. The purpose of this exercise was to stretch the area between the ribs and hips as much as possible. One thing we can do to remind ourselves to do this is to use our hands with fingers together at the side of our waist, and then stretch them apart away from each other up and down in the same direction that we want our ribs and hips to go. Everyone tried both roles of leader and follower.

Third Exercise:
Separately, we went back to the mirrors and tried to walk forward and back by ourselves, remembering the concept of trying to be as up as possible in the ribs, and as grounded as possible in the hips, maximizing the space in between.

Fourth Exercise:
According to Maestra, the fastest way to get better at tango is to work on walking and molinete technique. So we brought out the chairs (the standard metal folding kind). Standing behind the chair at the back left corner, we were to do counterclockwise molinetes (side, forward, side, back, etc.). We were to pivot all the way around and take large steps so that we could get all the way around the chair in the four steps at the four corners of the chair. Our chest orientation should always be toward the middle of the chair as if it were our dance partner; we could use our arms to help with this concept. Having a large chair is more challenging, as it forces you to take large steps, be fully committed in the weight transfers, and have lots of pivot. We spent several minutes on this. Ideally, you’d also work on doing clockwise molinetes around the chair as well.

Next, once our posture, balance, disassociation and pivoting had improved, we went on to the figure, which involved a series of twisty sacadas.

The Leader steps forward with his right cross step and does a series of rock steps while leading the Follower to do back ochos. He then takes an open step to the right to lead the Follower to do an overturned back ocho so that her left leg back sacadas the Leader’s left leg. To lead this, the Leader leaves his foot, but turns his upper body.

To this we added the Leader back sacada of his left leg of the Follower’s back trailing right leg on her left foot forward step of the counterclockwise molinete.

For Follower back sacada technique, she needs to pivot a lot to be able to step straight back on her back sacada (it is not a cross step). She should pivot with her feet completely together, and then send the foot straight out back in the back sacada. If she does not keep her feet together on the pivot and pivots and tries to sacada with one of her foot already out, she will not have enough room and end up kicking him or being outside his leg. The Leader can adjust his arm left arm to give her right arm and body more space when she does her left foot back sacada. For the related molinete technique for this figure, on the Follower’s forward step, she should go a little farther away from the Leader, but on the back step, she needs to have lots of pivot so that she can come a little closer to stay near. This will help maintain the same distance from the Leader.

There is the changeability of the embrace in this figure, especially if dancers are of extremely dissimilar heights.

Next, we added to the figure, a switch/rebound/pivot back to a clockwise molinete to Follower back sacada of her right leg of the Leader’s left leg as he steps forward with his right leg. At this point the dancers’ bodies are angled somewhat away from each other \ / to give space to their legs and bodies to accommodate the sacada, although both dancers still need to be on axis. Balance is key.

We worked some more on the switch/rebound/pivot since that seemed to be where many students could use improvement. We practiced by doing Follower forward ochos with the Leader stopping her periodically to send her back the other way, but either increasing or decreasing pressure. The Leader avoids leading a boleo by stopping the Follower when her hips are slightly before being exactly in front of him. If he’s too late and her hips pass that point, he will get a boleo instead. After we improved our switch/rebound/pivots, we attempted to add to the figure.

Next, we attempted to add the Leader’s forward sacada of his left leg to Follower’s trailing right leg, but we didn’t have time to drill it or figure it out since our time was up.

I liked this class immensely since it began with work on something nearly all dancers need to improve, and Maestra gave us much instruction on specific things to do when “walking”, and included exercises that we can practice alone at home or nearly anywhere else. Maestra is a gifted teacher in that she started with some basic, fundamental exercises which eventually built us up/improved our technique enough so that we had the tools to look somewhat OK in our back sacadas. Assistant Soheil also gave some very good perspectives and individual feedback on Leader’s technique regarding back sacadas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Followers’ Technique and Advanced / Production Classes @ CCSF with Chelsea Eng. The Followers’ Technique
topic was turns (molinetes). After doing our essential walking, floor, and barre exercises to improve our rhythm, posture, core and foot strength, disassociation and flexibility, we spent time on turns (molinetes). For the turn, Maestra emphasized not to rush to collect on the side step, to leave the trailing step out a bit, and not rush it so that the Leader has time and room to play, like for sacadas. We practiced a little bit at the barres before pairing up. Maestra also taught the molinete embellishment of the beat back on the open step after the back cross step. This can be done on or off the floor. In Advanced, we reviewed the change of direction from last week, and we also added the change of direction on the other side of the embrace. The step was right foot forward, pivot to open side step, back right, back left. When we did this in partnership, it was a linear step with the dancers circling/swirling clockwise around each other, so we’d both be on our right feet and left feet at the same time. Then we were to link the two changes of direction together, which was done by the Leader doing a forward step in between. Then we added a step to this that we learned a while ago: from the Americana footing of Follower left foot forward to Leader’s right foot forward, he leads her to do clockwise molinete of back-side-forward, and then does a left leg sacada of her trailing left leg as she steps forward with her right leg. It was a good class, as usual.

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